The Michigan State Spartans football program has officially added Thomas Wilcher to the staff. Wilcher joins the program as the director of community and high school relations, after serving as head coach for Cass Technical High School for 24 years.
As was reported in late June, Wilcher was expected to join the Spartans in some capacity, although his official title and role was not announced until Wednesday. It was previously reported that Wilcher would serve in some sort of analyst role.
According to a press release from MSU Athletics, in his new role, “Wilcher will build and coordinate relationships with key groups in the state of Michigan to enhance the reach and engagement of Spartan football in the community.” Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker is excited to bring Wilcher into the program.
“I’m excited to announce the hiring of Thomas Wilcher as our director of community and high school relations,” Tucker said, via press release. “I’ve known Coach Wilcher for nearly 20 years. His experience coaching, teaching and mentoring youth throughout his entire career have had a tremendous impact on students in Detroit who have gone on to make a difference in the state and across the country. Our program is looking to have an expanded presence in the community and Thomas is the perfect person to maintain and strengthen strategic partnerships for Michigan State football.”
Wilcher won three state championships with Cass Tech in 2011, 2012 and 2016. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2018, and was named the Detroit Lions Michigan High School Football Coach of the Year in 2011, as well as the Michigan High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2017. Additionally, Wilcher coached boys track and field, helping the Technicians win three state championships (1994, 1995 and 1996).
The hiring of Wilcher should be a huge and immediate boost for the Spartans when it comes to recruiting in the state of Michigan and in the Detroit area. However, there is one immediate pressing issue with Wilcher’s hiring on the recruiting front — Michigan State will not be able to recruit any players from Cass Tech for a two-year period.
With that said, according to MLive’s Matt Wenzel, while Michigan State won’t be able to add any prospects from Cass Tech in 2022, the program can recruit the high school in 2023.
NCAA rules regarding individuals associated with a prospect state “during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (either on a salaried or a volunteer basis) or enter into a contract for future employment with an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position or in a strength and conditioning staff position.”
Michigan State hasn’t signed a scholarship player from Cass Tech since cornerback Kalon Gervin in the 2018 recruiting class and a program spokesman said the team received a waiver from the NCAA for walk-on redshirt freshman receiver Sebastian Brown, who played for Wilcher at Cass Tech. The Spartans can’t sign a Cass Tech player in the 2022 recruiting class without it being a violation but can in the 2023 class, if the player isn’t an early enrollee and enrolls at school in the summer or fall.
As Wenzel notes, MSU currently only has two players from Cass Tech on the roster. Kalon Gervin was signed in 2018, so he is outside of the “two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment” rule, and the program secured a waiver for Sebastian Brown because he was a preferred walk-on. As for 2023 recruits, their first true semester in the fall would fall outside of the two-year window, so the Spartans could potentially sign a player from Cass Tech in that class (as long as that player does not enroll early).
While the rule will make it more difficult for Michigan State to recruit in 2022, the hiring of Wilcher should pay immediate dividends for the Spartans, as he is well-connected throughout the state of Michigan and beyond.